With all of the attention focused firmly on the departure of space shuttle Endeavour from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida – not so much attention was given to a Science Channel program entitled, “I.am Mars.” The half-hour program detailed the first song ever broadcast from Mars and it highlighted a problem NASA is working to correct and many that are either within NASA or report on the space agency – suffer from.
During the lead up to the launch of Curiosity, Will.i.am, accompanied by two-time shuttle veteran and current NASA Associate Administrator for Education, Leland Melvin were present. The duo would travel to a number of events surrounding Curiosity inclding the rover’s landing, where they monitored MSL’s progress from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) located in Pasadena, Calif. Although not widely publicized at the time, the musician was a man on a mission to inspire.
Will.i.am is the front man of the popular music group “Black Eyed Peas” and he is a self-professed nerd. A song that he produced traveled with the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover Curiosity to Mars and is entitled; “Reach for the Stars.”
The I.Am.Mars show on the Science Channel was dedicated to the original Moonwalker Neil Armstrong, a classy nod to a man who inspired so many.
Some of the “old guard” members of the media that call KSC their beat, scoffed and made jokes about the musician’s presence. They and their buddies yukked it up as they prepared to produce the same imagery and stories that have done such a tremendous job of boring the public to death and driving the youth away from space matters in droves.
A few of the die-hard journalists refer to those that express excitement and enthusiasm toward space flight as suffering from a condition they call, “deep sighs and starry skies.” From these type of comments, they have made it abundantly clear that they have long since lost the point about the “why” behind space exploration.
It isn’t about detailing the specifics of launch vehicles that allow them to achieve escape velocity – it is about inspiring the best in all of us. For some, they feel that you should possess a doctorate in aerospace engineering just to be able to understand their work.
Given the current economic reality this is wrong-headed to the point of being suicidal. The tax-payers, those benighted folks who foot the bill for every orbiter, lander and rover NASA has launched, have enough on their minds with just putting food on the table. They shouldn’t be expected to have a PhD in astrophysics just to understand an article. It is the journalists’ job to translate NASA-speak into a language everyone can understand – not the other way around.
As such, if you spend your time trying to feed the children of those taxpayers a pack of dry numbers and statistics you will wind up with exactly what we have – a space agency near death and desperately seeking a vision. One wonders where NASA would be if those that were supposed to inspire these children hadn’t failed all of us by their elitist attitudes.
This mindset is the reason why NASA has seen its programs shuttered and its budget gutted. It is this mindset that Will.i.am, Melvin and the other individuals featured in the Science Channel spotlight (including space rock star of the moment Bobak Ferdwowsi – the “Mohawk Guy”) are working to change.
Perhaps it is best that the shuttles are being moved to museums and we are once again looking to explore deep into space, with luck the mentality of those that doggedly stick to what was will follow the shuttles into history. Time will tell.